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Will the desert sun finally set on Nash?

Dec 22 2011

Steve Nash had to be content last month with his old St. Michaels University School gym for an alumni game.

This week he is back on the big-league hardwood as the abbreviated National Basketball Association pre-season began Tuesday night for his Phoenix Suns in Denver with a 127-110 loss to the Nuggets. Nash had 11 points in five assists in just 20 minutes of floor time. The clubs will play again today before the Suns open the lockout-shortened regular season Monday at home against the Chris Paul-less New Orleans Hornets.

The truncated 66-game regular season provides a unique challenge.

“We’re in a bit of a rush,” Nash told reporters during the Suns’ training camp media day.

“We have to get out there and do the best we can and try to get better.

I’m [feeling] not bad. We’re working hard making improvements and hopefully we get to a good level to start and get some wins under our belt.”

Nash turns 38 in February and is old enough to have been around during the last NBA lockout which reduced the 1998-99 season to 50 games. Not that that experience will be of much help to him this time around.

“I can’t even remember what it felt like. It was so long ago,” he said.

One thing has changed from 1998-99, when Nash was still learning the ropes of the pro game. The future was in abundance then for him and losing a season wouldn’t have been as big a blow. Now, it would have been. A lost season at this stage of his career would have been personally disastrous because the two-time NBA MVP surely doesn’t have many of them left.

“We’ve got a lot of guys back and that helps,” said Nash. “It’s easier this year because there is not as much turnover . . . so chemistry is pretty good.”

That’s invaluable under these circumstances.

“We had a really good camp,” said Nash. “It’s been difficult because we’ve had a lot of things thrown at us. But the coaches have done a good job.”

Nash’s split team, hardly surprisingly, won the SMUS alumni reunion game last month commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1991-92 season in which he led SMUS to the B.C.

triple-A high school championship.

But win is not something the Suns are expected to do overwhelmingly this NBA season, although some experts see them possibly sliding into the seventh or eighth playoff slots in the Western Conference.

So, as usual, because of where Nash finds himself in team location and age, the speculation is rife he could be dealt to a contending team that is missing just that one ingredient. Miami and the New York Knicks have been mentioned. The Suns have made no overtures they are looking to gear for the future by unloading Nash.

Nash, however, becomes a free agent after this season.

The former Canadian Olympic team captain appears, on the surface at least, content with staying. That could mean a career without an NBA championship ring — the only gap in his otherwise stellar hoops resumé.

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